This summer has flown by and as the nights get cooler and the days get shorter we are all trying to squeeze in one last adventure before we trade in our sandals and sunglasses for skis and winter coats. If you have one more summer getaway in you or you are already planning for next year, Yellowstone, the world’s first national park, is an excellent destination for travelers of every ilk. With endless things to see and discover, Yellowstone is as fascinating and awe-inspiring on your 20th visit as on your first. Whether you’re looking to explore something new or dodge some of the crowd, here are five things to see or do that are off the beaten path:
1. The Boiling River
Most of the unique features of Yellowstone you are only able to enjoy with your eyes (and sometimes your nose!), but the Boiling River you are encouraged to enjoy in all its glory. Toss on a bathing suit and take a dip where the heated water from the hydrothermal springs meet the chilly Gardener River. Finding your perfect balance of hot and cold is key to one of the most unique and relaxing experiences you’ll have in the wild.
2. Artist’s Paint Pots
This is a boardwalk trail that is easy for families but will let you see many of the hydrothermal features in Yellowstone at once. There are hot springs, geysers, mud pots, and a fumarole. With smell being your sense that is most connected to memory, the sulfurous gases abound here will make this an unforgettable experience.
3. Yellowstone Caldera
Yellowstone owes all of its ticket-punching hydrothermal features like Old Faithful (and the two listed above) to the fact that it is a volcano, and a big one at that. Much of the park rests inside the Yellowstone Caldera, the depression made from the last eruption, 640,000 years ago. From the high points, as you’re traveling in the park, you can stop and observe the caldera rim to get an idea for how big the volcano really is (34 miles by 45 miles). Worry not, because the “super volcano” is NOT going to blow any time soon but it will surely give you an appreciation for what stirs below.
4. Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center
Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you can’t learn a thing or two. Opened in 1993, the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center lets you and your family safely view these imposing animals on foot. The staff feeds the bears by stocking the pond and hiding the food so you can watch them fish and gather though they would in the wild. From the Naturalist Cabin you can view two wolf packs on either side of you while listening to educational programs about the species’ history in the park.
5. Lake Lodge Cabins
When exploring a place like Yellowstone, your room is mostly just for sleeping, however, it is nice to have a home base that is comfortable and quiet. These cabins are away from the hustle and bustle of Old Faithful Inn and lend outstanding views that few are so lucky to wake up to. If you’re not camping, you ought to be enjoying the comfort of a cozy cabin and no better place to do it than at Lake Lodge.